Just today, reports came in that a suicide bomber killed and injured more Iraqis in Baghdad, soon after the United States committed to its withdrawal from the country, and raising questions about the nation’s ability to rebuild itself. Pockmarked by war, it seems logical that appropriate building materials, biodiversity concerns, and wildlife conservation would stand low on the list of the country’s priorities. But this hasn’t stopped deputy plans officer for the 402nd Army Field Support Brigade, Joshua Mater, from forging links between his alma mater, Oregon State University (OSU), and various ministries and universities in Iraq, in order to foster sustainable development education that will enable Iraqis to rebuild their country when the Americans are gone.
Michael Scott Mater Foundation
Designed to “create opportunities for individuals and communities by providing financial resources, work-force training, cross cultural exchanges and sustainable solutions to real world challenges,” according to Galen Putnam, the non-profit organization Michael Scott Mater Foundation (MSMF) has an international reach, including projects in Peru and the United States as well as Iraq.
It is also a continuation of Mater’s former efforts to improve Iraqi lives. Previously, with help from OSU, he raised $30, 000 to provide textbooks to Thi Qar University School of Engineering in Iraq.
Named after Joshua’s father who died from cancer in 2002, Mater said that deciding to start the foundation was not easy. He says that the organization requires a lot of hard work and that he faced almost insurmountable barriers.
“However being a part of nation building and helping individuals in need is the most rewarding aspect of my life,” he told Putnam.
The program in Iraq has several initiatives:
- The Green Micro Loan initiative that provides business training, networking opportunities and loans, from $1,000 to $20,000, to entrepreneurs in order to help start or grow new or existing business with an emphasis on sustainability;
- The foundation’s World Empowerment Initiative develops job skills through vocational training in vulnerable communities;
- MSMF partners with businesses, schools, and governments to provide individuals with the necessary skills to enter or re-enter the workforce;
- The MSMF Sustainable Solutions Initiative is built on the concept of coalition development between members of academia, industry, government and communities in order to promote the development and implementation of green technologies and sustainable practices throughout the world.
Sustainable Engineering Education
At present, Mater is pushing especially hard to develop the Coalition for Sustainable Engineering Education (CSEE). So far, this program, developed in concert with OSU and several dedicated Iraqi professors, has resulted in the establishment of the National Education Program for Sustainable Engineering Education led by Dr. Angham Alsaffar.
Among their major concerns are water quality and conservation, wastewater treatment and recycling, indoor and outdoor air quality, renewable energy, green building, and ecosystem services and management.
“The next step is to get the CSEE agreement signed by all parties; the universities, Iraqi ministries, OSU and MSMF,” Mater said.
Mater hopes that the sustainability conference to be hosted by the Iraqi Minister of Higher Education in Baghdad in October 2010, will provide the perfect venue for securing commitment to sustainability at various levels.
At the conference, “experts from OSU will discuss the integration of sustainability into the Iraqi higher education curriculum and how this will lead to economic development and job creation in Iraq,” according to Putnam.
Mater’s brigade commander, Col. Lawrence W. Fuller, said of Joshua: “Not only is he a valued employee, he is an inspiration to others. His efforts to build relations with our Iraqi partners are commendable. Our reason for being in Iraq is to help them rebuild their country and achieve stability and Josh does that both on and off duty.”
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